Over the past few days and weeks, I have unknowingly found myself consuming a lot of content around climate change and activism, particularly information around fast fashion. I have just finished watching Down to Earth, the new Netflix series where Zac Efron travels the world to investigate sustainable living practices, whilst also listening to a fair few podcasts and Zoom panel discussions surrounding our effect on the planet. I think it has been a culmination of all of this information that has really got me thinking about what the next steps are for us mere mortals that aren’t running fossil fuel companies or coal mines.
I would like to think I play my part in helping the environment. I recycle, I use public transport, I am emotionally attached to my reusable water bottle (seriously though, you will never see me without it!). But, over the last few weeks, I have started to wonder, is this actually enough? Seeing images of oceans and cities being cleaner than ever due to an immediate and dramatic reduction in human activity has really made its mark on me. I want to do better for the environment and so I have being doing a bit of research…
Did you know… THE FAST-FASHION INDUSTRY CONTRIBUTES MORE CARBON EMISSIONS TO OUR ENVIRONMENT THAN ALL INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS AND SHIPPING COMBINED?
Take that in for a moment… All those ASOS and Zara orders are resulting in 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, not to mention tonnes upon tonnes of landfill and ocean pollution.
At first, I couldn’t really believe this, but actually it does make sense when you start to dig a bit. Boohoo alone releases 300 new products a day. Times that by the number of products they have in each size and colour, and that is A LOT of clothes produced every single day. As consumers, we are buying more clothes, and more frequently than ever before.
Something that is a positive step in the right direction is the introduction of sustainable lines, in which companies claim to be using more ethical and environmentally friendly methods of creating these pieces of clothing. H&M for example, recently released a bright pink dress in their Conscious Collection that has been dubbed THE dress of Summer 2020 (a bit like THAT polka-dot Zara dress that everyone had last year). Although it is encouraging to see big brands launching these lines, after doing some research I discovered that they might not actually be as green as they claim. H&M is pretty vague in its description of how its line is impacting the environment in a positive way, and moreover cotton (even if it is organic) as a material, needs thousands of gallons to convert into garmets (2000 to be exact, for a pair of jeans). Not to mention the use of harmful dyes, and as I said before, the mass-production of items for stores around the world… It sends you into a bit of a head spin at first, but I would really encourage you to do some reading for yourself to help you make more informed shopping decisions.
For me, I think it is reasonable to expect that recycling is, or at least becoming, the norm. We should be sorting our rubbish and food waste. I think it is reasonable to expect people to be using reusable water bottles, and keep-cups (don’t even get me started on cafés that refuse to accept them(?)!). But, I think now is the time to push our expectations to the next level! Lockdown has provided not only a global snapshot of how quickly the effects of reducing emissions can impact the environment, but on a smaller scale, how we don’t need to be buying things constantly – spotlight on clothes (I don’t know about you, but I didn’t stray from a hoodie and leggings for three months). Don’t get me wrong, I love a new outfit, I love shopping… but I want to try and relearn these habits, finding joy in other methods of buying.
So I guess this is my pledge, my announcement to the world that I want to do better. From now, I want to be shopping in thrift shops and vintage stores, through truly sustainable brands and through apps such as Depop. By buying clothes second-hand more, and reducing the market for fast-fashion, we have the power to stop clothes going into landfill and to put pressure on companies to reduce their carbon emissions. Not only are we helping do our bit for the environment, but we can also be saving SHED loads of money (that’s right, I’m saying goodbye to midnight scrolls through ASOS which turn into hundreds of pounds each year unnecessarily spent!) It is a big ask, and it might not be easy to go cold turkey straight away, but I definitely want to be a lot more conscious about my choices from here on in.
Next time you have a special event or date night that you would usually buy a new outfit for, I challenge you to bring a whole new meaning to a killer outfit…